HR is never short on challenges to handle or fires to put out but how will that change in 2020? If you were going to create a list of the main issues HR will have to deal with in the coming months, it might look something like this:
- Getting more executive buy-in
- Wellness initiatives
- Diversity initiatives
- More personalized employee experiences
- The war for talent
And indeed, in many surveys of HR professionals conducted in the second half of 2019, these are the issues that come up. HR Executive did their own survey and “recruiting and hiring” issues, including figuring out how to manage employee healthcare costs, came in as the clear No. 1 challenge. Gartner’s top three priorities for HR leaders in 2020 were all around talent management, including building critical skills and competencies, strengthening the bench (think succession planning), and implementing change management initiatives.
Now that we know a few of the challenges, let’s take some of them and see where the solutions may lie.
Getting more executive buy-in
It can sometimes seem like HR has the answers but not the power to make any changes a reality. Maybe you've found a great new approach to talent acquisition (assessments, anyone?) that you really want to try but can't get executive support to move forward. What can you do?
The solution: This is a challenge primarily because HR typically does not face revenue, and executives tend to care more about departments that do. But it can be overcome. What HR departments need to do is focus more in two areas:
- Tying data to bottom-line growth or cost
A big example here would be turnover. If you can have real data on the cost impact of turnover, including turnover by department, turnover by manager, turnover by recruiter, turnover’s impact on project budgets, etc. that will resonate. It can begin to showcase turnover as a problem, as opposed to a natural element of doing business. Same with HR software purchasing. How did it save time? How did that time correlate to saving money? Everything needs to be data-first and cost efficient. If you bring data and hard money figures to the table, executives will buy in to HR initiatives of all types, from recruiting to employee engagement (experience) to diversity, etc.
The war for talent
Hiring is one of the biggest challenges for HR and likely will be for the foreseeable future. It's a candidate-driven hiring market which means competition for good workers is stiff. So how can your HR team ensure top talent flows into the company?
The solution: We’ve been talking about this for decades, and we’re not perfectly clear on it yet, but there’s a combination of factors you can pursue to get the best people possible. First, use more assessments. They’re valuable pre-hire predictors. Secondly, double down on employee referrals. Your employees have worked with other people at other jobs, and they know who gives their all and performs well. It takes some of the guesswork out of hiring, and eliminating that guesswork -- referrals and assessments both help with this -- is a huge boon to recruiters, hiring managers, and the recruiter-hiring manager relationship. Once you have ideally top talent in-house, make sure you are caring about and focusing on the employee experience, so that you don’t lose people to churn quickly.
More personalized employee experiences
How can you make work more personal? This challenge is especially important when thinking about onboarding new hires. Everyone learns differently so how can you tailor a welcoming experience to each new recruit?
The solution: Ideally this is going to happen as software improves. Software can allow for things like different learning rates and interests, customized modules of information, more ownership over scheduling or benefits, and easier access to a shared pool of company resources. It is hard to compare a 10-person organization to a 1,000-person organization along this line, but software is the most logical answer here. Employees don’t want to feel “like a number.” They want to believe they are a unique member of the organization -- and scaling that experience will likely continue to happen through the evolution of software.
This is an important challenge that will only pick up more steam in the year ahead. How can we make our workspaces both diverse and inclusive? From hiring to developing, employers across the country are seeing the very real benefits of a diverse workforce and taking the steps to make it happen.
The solution: Again, more transparency is needed. Keep track of hiring stats to show real data on the type of employees being brought into the company. Then try to tie the need for diversity to the bottom line more. Show senior decision-makers why it matters. Explain the need for both racial diversity, gender diversity, and cognitive diversity -- the latter meaning different ways of thinking and approaching problems. This is a slow and steady battle to be more diverse in organizations, but it can be achieved with data and bottom-line ties.
And of course, once you have your great new hires set up in their new roles, how do you keep them happy and healthy? Talented employees can burnout without care so ensuring they are in a healthy environment can have an impact on your productivity levels as a company.
The solution: Same as above -- and keep the focus on healthcare costs, which have become a concern for employers. Healthcare costs for an employer are likely to rise 6% in 2020, which has a huge impact on salary adjustments, bonuses, and general wage increases. Remember: the cost of goods is only going to increase. If healthcare prevents wages from increasing, society struggles. So use wellness initiatives as a way to try and control that healthcare cost number, and senior decision-makers will be more invested.
Every challenge has a solution
The people side of the business, which HR tends to handle, has a lot of challenges facing it. There’s no denying or running from that. But all of them can be solved gradually, usually with a focus on transparency, data, and the income streams of the business. New technology can help address some of the issues coming up and training programs or improving the work environment can help with even more. It's important to remember when things seem daunting that there's always a solution even if it's something new. So in the coming years, don't let the big challenges stall your drive for improvement and change. The talent landscape is shifting and wise HR teams are proactively adjusting with it.